Why the Rangers roster moves are fine…for now
October has officially arrived and hockey is upon us. The Rangers are set to kick the season off Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets for their season/home opener. There will be a ton of new faces and likely a new captain when they take the ice Thursday night.
On Monday, the Rangers made their final cuts trimming their roster down to 22 men. Faces many of us wanted to see, but we expected not to make the cut like Igor Shesterkin and defenseman Ryan Lindgren were sent down to Hartford. It was two other roster moves that sent Rangerstown into a frenzy; the demotions of Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov meaning both Michael Haley and Greg McKegg made the final 22. I personally agree with the final roster and here’s a breakdown of why.
Chytil played 75 games last season for the rebuilding Rangers. He had his bumps but showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season. Chytil was given an opportunity to win the number 2 center job, but eventually lost out to Ryan Strome (as he should have). If Chytil were to have made the roster over say Haley, he would be glued on either the 3rd or 4th line playing 8-10 minutes a night, with likely no power play time.
With the demotion to Hartford, Chytil will center the top line, playing 20 minutes a night, as well as playing on the top power play. Remember, Chytil is just 20 years old, so he is still developing Rangers fans. Playing top line, top PP in Hartford is better than playing in the bottom six for the big club.
Kravtsov displayed some of his best stuff throughout camp, and the preseason games. He showed Rangers fans his skill level, dangles with the puck, and the outstanding passer he is. Kravtsov is someone Rangers brass see as a top six winger for this club. Like Chytil, Kravtsov would have been playing bottom six minutes, with likely no power play time. His demotion to Hartford means the 19 year old Kravtsov will be playing on the top line 20 minutes a night, as well as playing on the top power play unit. Also like Chytil, I agree with this move because he is just 19 years old, and still getting accustomed to North American hockey, as well as culture.
Howden came out of the gate hot to start his rookie campaign in 2018-2019, but since his injury last year, Howden has been underwhelming relatively speaking. Some could make the case that Howden should have been sent down instead of Chytil, but the Rangers brass view Howden as the 4th line center of the future. Chytil on the other hand, is someone they want in their top nine, and likely even top six, if the spots are available. Howden’s development as a 3/4C will be best suited with the big club because that is where he will be now, and for the future.
Gregg McKegg and Michael Haley
I always believed McKegg would make the club as the 13th forward, but did not expect Haley to make it. These two moves are just placeholders for the time being (not the mention the Rangers do not want to send out a lineup of 18, 19, and 20 year olds). The Rangers want their young players to develop properly, and the sending down of Kravtsov and Chytil in favor of McKegg and Haley was the smart move.
The Rangers likely will not be competitors this year, and possibly sellers at the deadline once more. Vlad Namestnikov and Chris Kreider are pending UFAs this year, and players I expect to be dealt at the deadline in February. When that time comes, the roster will have two spots available for Kravtsov and Chytil to come up if not sooner (much sooner).
The Rangers plan in what they are doing in my opinion, is the right thing. They are putting their young players in the spots where they will learn and grow the best, while having a few players like McKegg and Haley as placeholders. The only issue that I will have is if Brett Howden gets the 3rd line center spot over Lias Andersson.